Sunday, November 28, 2010

Last bubba and what I learned this year in CX

This weekend's race was a flat venue, with the potential for some mud. I was a bit nervous about being in good standing in the series and tried not to think about the point situation. Competition is fun for me, but in the end it is just about a healthy race environment and keeping perspective on things.

Last week I managed to get the week off from school/research and so spent it in St Louis with just Cassidy (my 2 year old) and me hanging out with the grandparents.
It was really what I needed to be away from cancer biology for a week. We did normal stuff like cook, go to the zoo, coffee shop, playground, and of course I found some time to ride. Specifically, Tuesday was an easy 2hr mtn bike ride at Castlewood with my good buddy Matt James and Justin Neely. Wednesday, the weather was rainy and upper-30s. Really quite miserable for biking. But over the past season I didn't do much structured training with the exception of wednesday's in November...which were 2min, 1min, or 30sec intervals each until I felt like I was loosing it a bit. My goal was to increase the number of intervals each week and land at 6 of each (6x2min, 6x1min, 6x:30). On wednesday, I went out in the morning and got drenched and cold, finishing only a few of the 2 min intervals. So, I went and got a rain jacket/change of clothes only to head back out for the remainder of the workout.

It is for that reason that I've decided that 'training' isn't how I want to approach bike riding and racing. I'm too intense about it. Too much of a type-A personality. Too scientific. I've always used movement/exercise as a kind of escape and work hard at whatever it is, but over the past year I've learned a ton from riding my bike and find that I'm a lot happier just riding as opposed to training. Sunday morning I woke feeling great despite having done some serious beer drinking the night before (and all the preceding evenings the entire week).

During the race I was glad to have a little ring (39t), as I spent the majority of the race trying to keep my cadence and pace high. Devin, Jeff, and I got a gap early and I ended up going off the front for about 6 laps to take the win.
Race started out like this:

Honestly it feels kind-of crazy as I didn't expect to do as well as I have during the bubba series. I guess I just didn't have any expectations for myself and I came in with a solid base of road riding from last winter/spring, some short track mtn bike racing in July, then nothing but the weight room during August and most of September. I'm convinced that the weight room and time off the bike has been a tremendous benefit to this cross season. A little bit ironic that I say I don't train, but still lift I suppose. I think lifting heavy things is a part of our ancestral-past and helps keep us healthy. If I had to design a longevity exercise routine, it'd consist of lifting 2-4 days per week, one or two hard 'interval' type days at whatever modality enjoyable, and then 1-2 long meandering type days (endurance riding, long hikes, long walks, etc).

Every other year for cross, I didn't have time to do long rides whereas this year, every Tuesday I managed gravel loop before work (~3hrs). More than anything else, I rode this year because I loved it and found so much peace of mind, especially on my Tuesday long rides (Josh Johnson actually encouraged me to sell the power meter and ride in this way). Wednesday's were cross practice or intervals in November. Thursday was either rest or an easy ride, then race as much as possible as long as it is fun.

Friday, November 26, 2010


This past week has been a good reminder of why I'm happy to be doing what I'm doing.

There are a couple of swollen lymph nodes in my neck, which have been making it a little hard to swallow and have been giving me some discomfort. In combination with the increase in my thyroglobulin, it has been very hard to remain focused on my research. With all of that said, after the race last sunday, I decided to stay in St Louis with Cassidy while Maggie went back to Columbia to work until Wednesday. It has been really nice to spend some days off with her doing totally normal but exceptional stuff; the zoo, playing dollhouse, eating waffles, and hanging out at the playground.

2 of the days I wanted to ride this week were drowned in rain and cold but given my neck symptoms, I really needed the psychological space created by being out on my bike regardless of the weather. Sometimes I wish I could still rock climb, because the climbing gym would have been a much more hospitable environment to spend a few hours tweaking my body and getting my heart pumping...but the elbows scream at me every time I try to climb so it is rarely worth it. Biking just feels too good.

I also had some time to think about the Pedal the Cause ride that I was involved with last October. The donations from that ride were recently presented to Wash U/Barnes/Children's hospital of St Louis and totaled 1 million dollars. What an amazing contribution for the first year! Moreover, having written a few grants this past year I feel like that money will truly fund positive research.

This has been a week where the things I'm grateful for are at the forefront.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mt Pleasant: Bubba #9

Pride Inc, Alton Illi-noise on saturday:

Mt Pleasant, Bubba #9 on Sunday:

It had been a year since my first top 5 result in the bubba race, which had happened at Mt Pleasant. Now, I find myself in the hot seat (leading the series?!) with one regular bubba to go, the state championship on Dec 4th, then nationals!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bubba #7 and 8

I really don't know anymore how to begin a race report on a pulp blog such as this, which is increasingly aimed to be more about my experience as a young adult with cancer and less about pedaling a bicycle in a race. Certainly the former deserves more attention and psychological work than the latter, especially given that I pretty much only do the latter to help with the former.

As I wrote last week, Maggie and I feel strongly that things will soon be changing in our lives. I'll see my doctor at MD Anderson on Jan 3rd and think it likely that I'll need more treatment. From the perspective of thyroid cancer, it has been clear for the last year that things are getting worse and it now looks like the radiation treatment last January acted as Darwinian selective mechanism for a population of cells which are no longer responsive to TSH suppression (english translation: continue to grow despite the thyroid hormone pill which I take on a daily basis, which in theory keeps them from growing). Just to put it into perspective, at no point before last week did we ever talk about me dieing (is that spelled right?) within the next 5 years. It just wasn't possible. Not a part of our reality. Now it may be and we actually talk about financial, social, and very practical implications of that.

Of course, I still feel quite healthy and am in better shape than I ever was for college sports, climbing, or anything else. Given the amount of time I trained in college for cross country, LaCrosse, climbing, and mountain biking it seems amazing that now that I'm 30 almost 31 with a family and a very real life, that somehow I get more out of doing less.

This article
touches on so much that I've been thinking about and obviously living in the past year. My pedal the cause team was actually named after the First Descents organization and if you buy any of the bubba merchandise a portion of the proceeds will go towards helping this wonderful charity (thanks Mike Weiss!). Please read the article for more about First Descents.

On to the weekend racing:

This weekend=two pretty epic battles with Josh, eating and drinking (too much) with a bunch of friends saturday night, and mind over thyroid cancer.

When I was in college, a really good friend of mine taught me the art of making a really good music mix. The transition from song to song and the overall emotional ambiance created by sitting down to listen to everysong on the album was the guiding principle of making another person's art into your own....kind-of like DJ'ing I suppose. Anyway, I was thinking today that a musical mix of Sunday's bubba race would probably rank amongst the greatest mixes of all time (that was hyperbole in case you couldn't tell).

Saturday's race was on a very diverse course with a little bit of everything thrown in. The huge sweeping turns and the road section leading to the stair run-up were my favorite. I ended up second after not being able to ride with Josh up a long and technical off-camber climb during the penultimate lap. He got about a 5-10s gap and held it to the line. As someone who has been mountain biking since the 7th grade, my background in cross country running in college and bicycle messaging in Boulder/Denver after college created a great background for the pursuit of cyclocross 3 years ago. But, I never thought I’d be saying that I like the road section the most! I guess that is what living in Columbia, MO has done to me!

Sunday was the race that needs a soundtrack. It would probably begin with an intense song, which sucks you in and gets your attention, because for the first time in my 3 year St Louis cyclocross memory, Josh took the holeshot! I wasn't about to watch him ride away, so I jumped on his wheel and the pain began very early in the 9 lap race. Maybe the them song for Pirate of the Caribbean would be appropriate to begin?
He's stronger and smoother than me on techy turns but I can climb better. We're very evenly matched at the moment in terms of straightaway threshold power so because the course had a nice balance of all of the above, neither of us were able to drop the other. And we both tried like hell and made it very hard on the other.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bubba number 6

I think November is having an identity crisis, isn't it supposed to be cold now?

Fun day at Queeny last sunday. Maggie raced again but was intimidated by the plethora of single-track mountain-bikey goodness and the 90s-2min hill climb at the end of the lap...all of which, got me psyched!

I'll defer to my buddy Jeff Yieldings description here for the first part of the race. Devin and I were on the verge of attacking when Devin bobbled in front of me on one section and Josh attacked and got a gap. I chased back on using the big hill at the end of the lap, this was with 4-to-go. Then I tried to recover for a lap (it was only a 5minute lap). Then I held Josh's wheel for another lap and fought the ridiculously steady JDE (Johnson Diesel Engine)....then attacked on the hill with 2 to go. I couldn't drop him. Then on the last lap, I attacked again on the barriers and got in front. I then cruise controlled it to the hill and attacked. I couldn't ride away, which left the uphill finish where I gave it my all and ended up with a win.

In other news, I posted a few weeks ago about the certain ambiguity in which my family and I have been living with over the past year. Recall that the story goes like this:
January 2010- radiation treatment which takes about a year to have an affect
July 2010- blood test showed that my tumor marker went up, uncertain about the validity of the test

Now in November 2010, the actual trend of my tumor marker looks as though it has gone up about 60% in a year. What's that mean? What is my tumor marker? How accurate is it? Well, I used to think I could answer those questions but now I really don't know. In July, it seemed as though the rise of my thyroglobuilin, aka tumor marker, was in contrast to all the scans I had which revealed stable or improved disease status (present in vertebrae, lungs, and neck). The blood test is supposed to be very accurate for increases or decreases in the size or amount of cancer in my body, so the knee jerk reaction is to scan me head-to-toe again to and compare with other pictures. Right now, I'm told to not worry too much about it and live my life normally over the next 2 months until I see my doctor on January 3rd at MD Anderson.

It is so incredibly hard too not attribute some kind of behavior or lifestyle trait to this change. But I'm no more or less active than I have been in the past 5 years. Stress-wise, my life is abound in it but is it contributing to the change? Basic science research is hard. I don't feel like I'm making significant contributions to society, etc. Is it the coffee? Adrenal fatigue? Too much protein? Fat? Carbohydrate? Beer? Bike riding? Pesticides? Bike racing? Is it some household cleaner we're using or laundry detergent? Maybe my renal or hepatic function has changed and I'm actually clearing the thyroglobulin at a slower rate? Maybe antibodies were masking it this entire time and we've had falsely low test values over the past few years? Maybe the test is like PSA and not as reliable as we thought. Fuck, I have no idea what I should do. More surgery and probably a fancy new chemo drug (like this) is probably in my future. At least for my cycling life there's this possible side effect.

Monday, November 1, 2010

November already!

Times flies. Maggie left for work early monday morning and texted me around 7:45 asking me to bring some chain lube and a water bottle so she can ride after work (after 2 weekends of 2 day racing!). I think the conversion is near completion...she's a bike geek.

Racing is serving as a wonderful distraction this fall. I've been riding more than I have any other fall and given this amazing weather, it has really felt great. I've tried to do one day of hard riding during the week (usually Wednesday) then just ride for run, peace-of-mind, etc on other days.

This past weekend was Bubba #4 and 5 CX races at Creve Coeur lake park in St Louis. Racing there is particularly meaningful for me because a good friend of mine, who I've written about before, Jason Brightfield, helped organize a cancer charity walk there a few years ago (about 1.5 years before he died). I think of Jason a lot and although I'm not a believer in an afterlife, sometimes I catch myself having a 'mental cigarette' with him. Anyway, those thoughts set the stage for a weekend of racing that ended up being a ton of fun.

Saturday night was weird. Besides the 10pm start, which is at least an hour after my bedtime, I somehow found myself chasing an ex-local named Sam off the start line at a start pace which was both silly and atypical for bubba races. I found myself off the front pretty early and decided not to race smart but to race I gave it a go for a few laps, knowing that the inevitable swallow would come. Looking back, I don't regret it at all. After a few laps, I got caught and settled into the group to recover. I was feeling OK and still smooth on the bike but responded too aggressively after Jay rode past me in the sand. I tried to match his pace and I bobbled the little berm run-up exiting the sand pit. Somehow I managed to endo and bend my brake cable over itself in my front canti. It took a minute to get going again and even then I couldn't seem to get rid of the rubbing. I chased for the next few laps and came across the line in 6th, tired but satisfied.

Maggie raced great and will probably start her own racing blog soon with a huge list of sponsors ;) It was cool to see so many women come out to race. Given the somewhat more meager A-race turnout, it is good to see signs of growth in cyclocross. I think it is funny I've only been doing this 3 years and I'm already blabbing about growing the sport...I guess I've never really been pulled into something like cross before. I've had passions in the past, even obsessions, but I don't think I've ever loved an activity as much as I do cyclocross. With that said, I'm excited to say that Maggie hooked up some plane tickets for Bend this December and we'll be joining our good friend's Matt and Lizz James on a weekend adventure to cross nats! Matt was even able to arrange for us to borrow some Specialized demo bikes for the weekend so as to avoid the hassle of packing and traveling bikes! Part of me wants to make a training plan for the next few weeks...but I'd rather just keep doing what I'm doing and just see how it all goes.

Sunday's race went well. I felt tired and sore while getting ready and thought I was barely holding on for the first few laps in the lead group. Jay and out-of-town Sam were doing all the work and setting a solid pace. With about 5 to go (right after getting caught on video picking my nose), Jeff had been pulling for a solid lap and I came around to pull on a bumpy section with a headwind. My intention wasn't to attack at that point, but I ended up gapping Jeff and bringing Jay up with me. I slowed a bit so as to work with them but Jay yelled to keep the pace high. Next thing I knew, I was by myself with I think 4 to go. Cruise control was on until I saw Schottler chasing me down. At each of the 180 turns, Josh was close enough to us that I could hear him yelling commands to Schottler. It was pretty awesome. I tried to make it hard on Jon, but he inevitably passed me and I kept the chase up over the last few laps to finish 2nd. Even though the field isn't as deep as last year, the top 6 or 7 racers are definitely each stronger and makes for a lot of fun.